Upside Down

  Thanks to the accursed virus, fans had to be thrown out of today’s night session at the Australian Open in the middle of the 4th set of Djokovic v Fritz, before the clock struck midnight.  It was like a very strange version of Cinderella.  Also, the River Thames has frozen over for the first time in 60 years, the Austrian Tyrol is now the worst coronavirus hotspot in Central Europe, United’s match at Real Sociedad of San Sebastian has been moved to Turin, and we’ve been promised a new Downton Abbey film as long as everyone gets vaccinated.  I’d love to think that all anti-vaxxers are keen Downton Abbey fans and that this will make them see the error of their ways, but sadly I fear not: however, hey, it’s worth a try.   These are very strange times.  I’m just waiting for someone to tell me that they’ve seen a weird light in the sky and that their neighbour’s cow’s given birth to a three-headed calf.

Meanwhile, my life has become so predictable that I’m starting to feel like one of the Ena Sharples gang in the early days of Coronation Street, always sitting in the snug of the Rovers and never drinking anything other than milk stout.  Except that the pubs are closed.  Further to last week’s scone trauma, when the cafe had run out of scones by 11am, I decided that I would go and get a scone today, to be eaten tomorrow, to get round the problem of the Australian Open committee having inconsiderately given Rafa and Cam the second night match with absolutely no thought as to when I was going to go and get my scone without the worry of the cafe having run out of them again.

So I went in, and, because the guy knows that, since the start of Lockdown III, I always go in on a Saturday morning, he asked if I’d be coming in tomorrow, and said that, if so, he could always put a scone on one side for me.  So I explained that I wouldn’t be coming in tomorrow because I didn’t know what time the tennis would finish.  I’m not sure what’s more weird, the fact that the scone trauma had such an impact on the guy that he offered to put a scone aside (bless) or the fact that I saw fit to explain in a café that I couldn’t leave the house during Rafa’s match.

On top of that, because everyone seems to go for their walk in the park at the same time every day, and I was a bit later than usual due to the tennis, I passed someone I barely know and they said “Ooh, you’re late today”.

My life has never been very exciting, but I have my moments.  The house is full of pictures of me at Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal, the Kremlin, the Pyramids, Tiananmen Square, the Venice Carnival, etc.  Now, people notice if I’m walking to the local park a few minutes later than usual.   I’ve even started going to the same checkout every time I go to Tesco, because it’s usually staffed by a very smiley lady who always chats away and cheers me up!

In case anyone’s reading this, just to clarify the points above 🙂 :

  1.  For five wonderful days, fans have been allowed into the Australian Open.  It’s been wonderful hearing the noise of a real crowd again.  But, sadly, there have been some cases of the virus in Melbourne, and so the state of Victoria has been put into lockdown for a week.  Everyone was supposed to be home at midnight, so the crowd had to be thrown out in the middle of the match.  It was very strange.  This wretched bloody virus.  But thank you to the authorities for allowing the tournament to continue.
  2.  Due to travel restrictions, English football clubs cannot travel to Spain, Germany or Portugal for the next round of Champions League/Europa League matches, and Portuguese clubs cannot travel to England.  So United’s match in Spain (the Spanish Basque country) has been moved to Italy, Arsenal’s match in Portugal has been moved to Italy, Arsenal’s home match against a Portuguese club has been moved to Greece, Liverpool and city’s matches in Germany have been moved to Hungary, and Chelsea’s match in Spain has been moved to Romania.  Everyone with that?  Good.
  3.  Hugh Bonneville has said that there’ll be a second Downton Abbey film once everyone who’s been offered a vaccination has had a vaccination.
  4.  Tyrol (excluding East Tyrol, which is geographically separate), which has played an important role in my life as the setting for the early Chalet School books, has sadly been hit by an outbreak of the South African variant of the virus.  No-one’s allowed out of the province unless they’ve had a negative virus test within the last 48 hours, and no-one’s allowed to cross from Tyrol into Germany at all.

The world is upside down.  That’s also a bad pun to do with the Australian Open.

If anyone’s actually read all that, thank you.  Writing is helping me to cling on to what bit of sanity I’ve got left 🙂 .  Stay safe x .

 

 

 

 

Lockdown Week 15 – June 29th to July 5th 2020 inclusive

Monday, June 29th

Today should have been the first day of Wimbledon.  But there is no tennis, it has poured down nearly all day – I went out to the park, and later for a short walk, and both times it started pouring down whilst I was out, and was so windy that it was hard to keep my brolly up – and the temperature’s more suited to November than June.  Bah!  And I’m fed up of not knowing when online booking for things will open, and worrying that I’ll miss it.  And it looks as if poor Leicester will have to keep stricter regulations for another couple of weeks.

On a happier note, my favourite café is reopening this weekend!  And my elder nephew went back to school today – mornings only, reams of paperwork, and there are only three weeks of the academic year left anyway, but it’s a start!

 

Tuesday, June 30th

Another cold, wet day.  I’ve decided that I need to cancel my booking for Japan … I’m sad about it, but, even if the trip goes ahead, it’s not the time for long-distance travel.  I made a list of European trips as an alternative, but they all say that they’re only going with Lufthansa so I’d have to change in Germany, which is ridiculous because Jet2.com will be flying from Manchester to Rome and Venice by then, and the tour company’s always used them before.  I sent an e-mail asking about all this, but the person I’ve been dealing with is off this week, so I re-sent it to the general address, and no-one’s answered (yet).  My sister is stressed out trying to cancel a holiday to America.

Off to the frozen yoghurt shop, then it’s United v Brighton.

Getting very little contact from work, and I don’t think clients are checking work e-mails.

 

Wednesday, July 1st

The holiday company have not got back to me.  The weight I somehow put on overnight last week has not come off.  Booking for something I wanted to book is opening on Friday … when I can’t watch the website because I’ve got the chiropodist.  And I went into the office this morning and felt really uncomfortable being there.  And there is no Wimbledon.  And Wigan Athletic have gone into administration.

On the plus side, we beat Brighton last night, the dental surgery has finally reopened, and it has stopped raining.

I just can’t see an end to this.  Leicester’s back in lockdown.  We’re still registering nearly 200 deaths a day.  WHY?  Nowhere else is.  Death rates are supposed to be back to normal, so it doesn’t make any sense.  Melbourne’s also back in lockdown, the situation in the US is bad, it’s bad in India too, and the US has bought up practically the entire global supply of remdesivir.  When is this nightmare ever, ever going to end?

 

Thursday, July 2nd

The French Open is apparently going to have stadia 60% full!  Which will be the same as usual, as the prawn croissant brigade only ever take their seats for Rafa, Roger, Jo or Gael!!  I’d assumed it’d be behind closed doors.

The holiday company have sent me an e-mail saying they’ll get back to me.  They haven’t done.  And the office laptop had a huge strop this morning and lost the IP address for the remote connection, although it’s working now.

And it managed to stay dry whilst I was in the park today, which was good.

I feel as if there should be an air of excitement ahead of pubs etc reopening, but the Leicester lockdown and the situation in America have really cast a wet blanket over everything.  And cases are quite high in several other places, many of which are local.  The authorities will not do anything about community transmission because they’re more afraid of being accused of racism than they are of the danger to public health.  So everyone’s feeling a bit despondent … and it’s all so political, with so many people more concerned about criticising the government than about trying to find solutions.

And, as much as I accept that it’s a nightmare, every solution raises new problems.  For example, it’s been suggested that schools should vary starting times, so that there aren’t hordes of kids all streaming in through the doors and hanging around in the cloakroom/locker areas at once.  That makes sense.  But it won’t fit in with transport timetables, especially for private schools where a lot of kids get school buses, or in rural areas where buses only run once an hour.  And what about primary schools, where most kids are dropped off by parents, who may have 2 or 3 kids in different academic years?  But school attendance will be mandatory again from September, unless there are very good medical reasons.

 

Friday, July 3rd

I don’t know what I’m more sick of, this horrible depressing rain or being chained to the office computer.  But, on the positive side, I’ve got a place on a Windermere Lake Cruise steamer for next Saturday!   They actually open tomorrow, but a) the forecast’s vile and b) I’d already booked Fountains Abbey.  I’ve waited nearly 4 months: I suppose I can wait another week.

The air bridges have been announced, but the holiday company have not got back to me.

I went to the chiropodist this morning.  The magazines in reception have been replaced by pictures of feet!  And the chiropodist was wearing a mask and gown.  And I had to leave by a side door!

 

Super Saturday, July 4th

This is so-called “Super Saturday”, when hairdressers, pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels can reopen.  The doom merchants are insisting that zillions of people will be falling down drunk all over the country and the virus will spread like wildfire, but I can’t see it.  Observed en route to Fountains Abbey – a lot of caravans heading for the coast, and a long queue outside a barber’s shop.  I left here in torrential rain, but it was dry in Ripon, and I had a really nice time.  And, hooray, the visitor centre tea room (although sadly not the lakeside tea room) was open (for takeaways), and they had lovely National Trust scones, straight out of the oven!

It was pouring down when I got home, but dried up later, when I went for a late walk in the park.  The farm centre cafe’s now reopened, the ice cream vans are back, and, hooray, some of the toilets have reopened!!

This was after United v Bournemouth.  We won 5-2!   Really exciting, eventful match … such a shame that we couldn’t be there in person to watch it, but still.  We’ve restarted well … but it’s no good unless someone else slips up.

I am due at the hairdresser’s at 8am tomorrow.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to be going anywhere!

 

Sunday, July 5th

Hooray, I have had my hair cut and coloured!  I actually look like me again!  It was a bit weird with me in a mask and my hairdresser in a visor, and not being able to have a cup of tea, but it was the usual nice friendly atmosphere.  I’ve been going to the same hairdresser for nearly 20 years.  The salon’s opening 7 days a week, and extra hours each day, for now, and anyone who’s too nervous to go in the main salon can have their hair done in a room upstairs which isn’t usually used.

Later, I went into town, to my favourite café, The Vienna Coffee House, which reopened yesterday.

It was quiet … which was nice for me, because my main issue with going to cafes/pubs/restaurants is the fear of being caught by “test and trace”, and I certainly won’t be going into one during the three weeks before my “staycation”, but not so for them.  It’s early days, though, and town was certainly much busier than it was the last time I went.  You do have to fear for businesses, though, and for the transport networks too, with theatres still closed, no live music, and no crowds at football matches.  This rotten weather isn’t helping – London’s been busier, because it’s been nice there, but it’s been very windy here, and now it’s raining again.  It rained whilst I was on my way back from the park, too.  Bah!

Oh well.  We do need to try to stay positive.  I don’t watch BBC News any more, because of its negative attitude and the way it criticises the Government’s every move, but now Sky News is getting as bad!   Negativity won’t help.

I still can’t quite believe that all this is happening.  My admiration for the generations who lived through the world wars, especially, because of the Blitz,  the Second World War, was always high, but it’s now higher than ever.   Our lives have been turned upside down.

But, hey, hairdressers are open, and cafes are open!  Some places of worship have reopened, and some weddings have taken place.  It’s just all so far from normal.  I want normal back.

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown Week 10 – May 25th to 31st 2020 inclusive

Bank Holiday Monday, May 25th

Lovely sunny day today.  I was at the National Trust car park at Alderley Edge just after half 8.  This was a good move: by the time I left, two hours later, it was nearly full.  I had a lovely walk, and went through some bits of the woods which I’ve never seen before.  The tearoom was sadly closed, but it’s reopening for takeaways next week, and I managed to get a drink from a Costa Express stand in a shop in the village.

The toilets were closed, though.  I have had it up to here with this Toilet Tyranny.  Some people are frightened to go out in case they can’t find a toilet.  Others are using bushes and trees – and these are people who’d never dream of doing anything so disgusting normally.  People who live in tourist areas have said that … well, that the results of the toilets being closed are too disgusting to talk about.  The Victorians who did so much to improve public sanitation must be turning in their graves.  This is appalling.  Get those toilets open.

Due to Toilet Tyranny, I then came home, but, later, I drove into town (i.e. central Manchester).  It’s much easier walking round town than it is walking round the suburbs, because the pavements are wider, and Deansgate’s been temporarily closed to traffic from Kendals northwards.  I had a walk round, and (despite being fat enough already) had an ice cream (my first 99 for more than two months!!) in Piccadilly Gardens.

And, hooray, the Arndale toilets were open!  I do not normally write about toilets, but it can’t be helped at the moment!

There was a gang of 13 teenage lads hanging around near Exchange Square.  Later, when I went for my daily walk in the park, I saw 10 lads cycling together, a load of games of football and cricket going on, and people letting their kids climb over the fence into the playground despite all the “Closed due to coronavirus” signs.  I’m not judging anyone, but the point is that this situation’s ridiculous.  Lockdown cannot be enforced any more: people have had enough.  Let parks and gardens at National Trust etc places reopen.  As long as social distancing measures are out in place, let cafes reopen.  Then at least we’re not all having to gather in the same places, and at least some organisations’ll be earning some money.   It’d be a lot safer than carrying on like this.  Sermon over!!

And, hooray, three soaps on TV tonight!

 

Tuesday, May 26th

I’ve written to my MP to ask why National Trust and English Heritage gardens and parks are not allowed to reopen when public parks are packed out, and why people are being left to use the great outdoors as a toilet because councils refuse to reopen public facilities.  I doubt it’ll do any good, but I’ve tried!

Tesco and M&S this morning, then to the office to leave some stuff and collect more.  I’m not saying much about work as I’m very upset about the way we are being treated, but probably shouldn’t say too much about it on a public blog.

Shops are all allowed to reopen from mid-June, hooray!  Well, as long as it’s safe.  And, as Sky News said, if shops are open, surely the stupid councils will have to reopen the toilets.  I’m not sure how this is going to work, though.  Are they going to monitor the number of people going into the Arndale Centre and the Trafford Centre, or just into each individual shop?  But, sadly, this does not include hairdressing salons.

Watching Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich, and hoping to see the Premier League back next month.

 

Wednesday, May 27th

Another nice sunny day today.  I went to the park early afternoon, and to the frozen yoghurt shop and the flower part after the “home office” had closed!

The BBC – making a rare effort to discuss things which actually matter to people! – did a big feature on the Great Toilet Tyranny this morning.  They interviewed someone from the British Toilet Association (yes, there is one!), someone from Crohn’s and Colitis UK about what a nightmare this is for people with particular medical conditions, and a delivery driver who said that he and his colleagues were being forced to use buckets in the backs of their lorries.  It’s absolutely appalling.  Why are the petty tyrants on local councils allowed to treat people like this?

Looks as if High Street shops will not be rushing to reopen 😦 .  Too easy to take the furloughing payments instead!  Yes, they need to put social distancing measures in place, but supermarkets have had to do that from the start, without any sort of precedent to follow.  If the big names don’t reopen, it’ll put people off going to city/town centres and shopping centres, and then that’ll kill it for small independent shops.

On a happier note, it looks as if progress is being made with Project Restart.  Getting football going ahead would be such a boost.  Fingers crossed!

 

Thursday, May 28th

Another sunny day – had a nice walk in the park,  And, hooray, the Premier League is restarting on June 17th!!  The matches in hand have to be played first, fair enough, so City’ll restart before we do, but then everyone should play that weekend.  We’re due to play Spurs.  Hooray!!

And Dunham Massey, Lyme Park and Styal are reopening!  Well, the parkland is.  I suspect that there’ll be an absolute stampede for tickets when booking opens in the morning, but I shall certainly try!

I really did need those pick-me-ups today.  My weight has gone all wrong this week – and I don’t know why, because I haven’t done anything differently to last week.  And I am so sick of work.  Nearly 10 weeks of working from home and not so much as an e-mail asking if we’re OK, just moaning and complaining about everything that doesn’t run 100% smoothly.  As one of my colleagues said, millions of people are getting paid 80% of their wages to sit around sunning themselves in their gardens or in parks – although it’s obviously not their fault that their workplaces are closed – whilst we’re chained to laptops and not even getting a word of thanks!

It’s the last Clap for our Carers tonight.  There’s supposed to be a sing-a-thon at half 7, but I’m not sure people are going to bother with that, but it’s a shame about Clap for our Carers.  As with everything else, people are using it to try to score political points.

And my nephews’ school has said that my elder nephew can’t go back until the end of June, and then only in the mornings, and that my younger nephew can’t go back until September.  So much for all primary schools reopening on June 1st!  My sister is not pleased!

 

Friday, May 29th

I thought that booking for the National Trust sites would open at 9, but I had a look at 7 and it was already open, and the 10am slot for Dunham Massey for next Saturday was already unavailable.  I got half 10, though!  And 10 o’clock for Lyme Park on the Sunday – it said not to book up a load of slots, but I decided that one for each of two different properties should be OK.  It said “parks and gardens”, so I got my hopes up that the gardens’d be open, but it’s just the parkland … but it’s a start!

And dates have now been pencilled in for the Cup, as well as the League.

Also, it was announced last night that groups of up to 6 people from different households can now meet outdoors, including in private gardens.  (There were two groups of well over 20 people in the park, incidentally.)  So Mum and Dad are going to London next week, to see my sister and bro-in-law and the kids.  I’m really pleased for them … but sad that I’m out of it.  Weekends are the only time that bro-in-law isn’t chained to his laptop/phone, so it wouldn’t be a good time for me to go.  I wish I knew that I’d definitely be able to go to the Lakes, or somewhere, in August if not in July.  I’m struggling a bit with being chained to the office laptop all day, especially when a) I see other people enjoying themselves in the park (OK, at least I can go for walks in the park, but still) and b) work haven’t given us one shred of support.  A bit of kindness goes a long way, though.  I had nice e-mails from two clients today, and they cheered me up.

And, hooray, it’s the weekend.

 

Saturday, May 30th

Another hot, sunny day.  It’s been the driest, sunniest spring on record.  Whilst there are now growing concerns about water shortages, please do not let the dry spell end just as hotels reopen … July or August!

I went to Hollingworth Lake this morning.  The Olive and Pickle’s now doing quite a lot of takeaway stuff, and other places are also open for chips, ice cream etc.  Sadly, the toilets are still not open.  Had a lovely walk, then came home.  Week 10 of Scones in the Garden – it started with daffodils, and now we’re on to roses.

Later, Mum and Dad came round to sit in the garden for a bit.  Technically, you’re not meant to sit in other people’s gardens until Monday morning, but jumping the gun by a day and a half was pretty mild compared to all the rule-breaking going on in the park, where I went later – groups of 20-odd people sat together, gangs of lads on bikes practically running people over, and three police officers strolling around, doing nothing!  This is stupid.  Groups of 20-odd people sit around together, there are gangs of bored teenagers all over the place, but pubs aren’t allowed to reopen beer gardens and hairdressers aren’t allowed to reopen.  FFS.

Live sport from June 1st’s got the go-ahead, so the Premier League and the FA Cup are definitely on for a restart!!  Hooray!!

 

Sunday, May 31st

Blackpool!!  Hooray!!  I’d normally have been going a week today, because I’ve got a weird ritual thing about going to Blackpool before watching the French Open men’s singles final, but nothing’s normal this year.  But I’ve been!  What a lovely day.  I was there at half 8, and it was already warm and sunny.  And pretty quiet, at that time.  It got busy later, but not too busy, and, apart from a few large family groups – totally ignored by the police – most people were trying to observe social distancing.  Even in the queues for the public toilets which, with cafes, pubs and arcades closed, were pretty long by the afternoon!  And it’s much easier on the prom and the beach than trying to dodge the crowds in parks.

Loads of food places along the front were open.  I’d taken some salad with, but, ahem, succumbed first to an ice cream and then to fish and chips.  The Scales will hang, draw and quarter me for that, but it was so nice!   It was all rather 1950s, everyone eating fish and chips on the beach!

It was sad to see the piers closed, though.  And the Tower, Madame Tussaud’s and the amusement arcades.  I could have cried when I saw a poster in one amusement place, with a list of family fun days planned for 2020.  Easter, VE Day, Euro 2020 … .  Even if all the hotels reopen later in the year, this good weather won’t last for ever.  Our tourist places’ll take a terrible hit this year.

But it was such a lovely, lovely day … to see the sea, to feel the sea breeze (messing up my already messy hair), to be in Blackpool …

Went to the park later.

If I could just get back to the Lakes … but I’m so glad to have been to Blackpool!

 

 

Support bubbles, scones and snapdragons

I am now in a “support bubble”.    This means that I can go round to my mum and dad’s and actually go inside, that they can come to mine and actually come inside, and that I have actually had a hug for the first time in 12 weeks.  I have also had a cream tea of sorts (tea in a takeaway cup, scone in a wrapper) somewhere other than my own garden for the first time since the middle of March.  And I have been round the gardens at Quarry Bank Mill and Tatton Park.   And, hooray, the Premier League resumes next week.   Now, if I could just have my hair cut and coloured, so that I could a) stop having to clean spray-on wash-in hair dye out of the bath and b) look rather less like I’m about to start singing an ’80s power ballad … .  OK, I’m always singing ’80s power ballads, but the look doesn’t really work in 2020.  But hooray for support bubbles, scones and snapdragons.

Has anyone else wondered if somehow they’ve fallen down a rabbit hole into a world where everything’s completely mad?   I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare and the (Mad) Hatter all turned up on my doorstep.

I cannot think of any other time in history, or even in myth or legend, where you haven’t been allowed to hug your own family and friends.    It really is strange.  But, hey, thanks to the support bubble, we’re getting somewhere!   A “support bubble” is an arrangement between a single adult household and one other household to form a “bubble” within which social distancing need not be observed.  Fortunately, our situation’s straightforward.  Mum and Dad are together, so I didn’t have to choose between them.  My sister isn’t a single adult household, so they didn’t have to choose between her and me.

And, hooray, unlike Dunham Massey and Lyme Park, Quarry Bank Mill (Styal) and Tatton Park are letting people into the gardens.  Even better, the weather has actually behaved this weekend.  Blue sky!  It feels like … well, it feels like the grass court season should be here, but it isn’t.  Oh well.  But at least there are flowers.  It’s so lovely to see big gardens, full of flowers, again.

And so peaceful.  The public parks, especially at weekends, are full of kids on bikes, adults on bikes, kids on scooters, dogs … it’s like playing some sort of computer game in which you have to try to steer a path (at a 6 foot distance!) between all the hazards.  That’s why I’ve kept saying how ridiculous it was that big estates like Tatton Park were closed.  With so few places open, it was inevitable that we’d all be crowding into public parks.

Tatton Park, although National Trust members don’t have to pay to go into the house (which isn’t open ATM) or gardens, isn’t run by the NT, and, with all due respect to the NT, its management have shown a lot more sense, by getting the tearoom open.  The nice Gardener’s Cottage is shut, but The Stables tearoom is open for takeaways.  There’s a big outdoor seating area in the courtyard anyway, and more space has been made so that more tables and chairs can go out there.  They must have made a lot of money today.  Good for them.  It made me think of Mrs Merriwether in Gone With The Wind, pulling herself together and selling her pies, instead of bemoaning the collapse of her world.  A lot of local cafes and restaurants are doing takeaways now.  Good for all of them.  I very much hope that they all survive this horrible time.

And I really needed those peaceful gardens this week, because there seems to be so much anger and hatred everywhere.   What happened to all that talk, in April, about community spirit, when Captain Tom Moore was inspiring us all?  This week’s been awful.  Say you’re upset because someone vandalised a statue of the man who saved Britain from the Nazis, and someone accuses you of being a racist.  Point out that most policemen would are neither racist nor violent, and someone accuses you of “white privilege”. How did the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests become twisted like this?  The Guardian newspaper prints a cartoon depicting Priti Patel as a bull with a ring through her nose.  Whilst you don’t expect decency from what the Guardian‘s become, overt racism, and in a way that’s also religiously offensive, from a well-known newspaper is very shocking, particularly so at a time when so many people have been speaking out about the damage done by racism.   A woman who’s been a victim of sexual violence says that she thinks there’s a need for single sex spaces, and she’s threatened with rape.  What is going on here?   These are very difficult times.  We need to be working together, not hurling vile abuse at each other.

And as for the fact that, after 12 weeks of working from home, we still haven’t had so much as one e-mail asking if we’re OK …

But we have support bubbles.  And we have scones.  And we have gardens.  And we have each other.  And, this weekend, we also have sunshine!

Support bubbles, scones and snapdragons

I am now in a “support bubble”.    This means that I can go round to my mum and dad’s and actually go inside, that they can come to mine and actually come inside, and that I have actually had a hug for the first time in 12 weeks.  I have also had a cream tea of sorts (tea in a takeaway cup, scone in a wrapper) somewhere other than my own garden for the first time since the middle of March.  And I have been round the gardens at Quarry Bank Mill and Tatton Park.   And, hooray, the Premier League resumes next week.   Now, if I could just have my hair cut and coloured, so that I could a) stop having to clean spray-on wash-in hair dye out of the bath and b) look rather less like I’m about to start singing an ’80s power ballad … .  OK, I’m always singing ’80s power ballads, but the look doesn’t really work in 2020.  But hooray for support bubbles, scones and snapdragons.

Has anyone else wondered if somehow they’ve fallen down a rabbit hole into a world where everything’s completely mad?   I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare and the (Mad) Hatter all turned up on my doorstep.

I cannot think of any other time in history, or even in myth or legend, where you haven’t been allowed to hug your own family and friends.    It really is strange.  But, hey, thanks to the support bubble, we’re getting somewhere!   A “support bubble” is an arrangement between a single adult household and one other household to form a “bubble” within which social distancing need not be observed.  Fortunately, our situation’s straightforward.  Mum and Dad are together, so I didn’t have to choose between them.  My sister isn’t a single adult household, so they didn’t have to choose between her and me.

And, hooray, unlike Dunham Massey and Lyme Park, Quarry Bank Mill (Styal) and Tatton Park are letting people into the gardens.  Even better, the weather has actually behaved this weekend.  Blue sky!  It feels like … well, it feels like the grass court season should be here, but it isn’t.  Oh well.  But at least there are flowers.  It’s so lovely to see big gardens, full of flowers, again.

And so peaceful.  The public parks, especially at weekends, are full of kids on bikes, adults on bikes, kids on scooters, dogs … it’s like playing some sort of computer game in which you have to try to steer a path (at a 6 foot distance!) between all the hazards.  That’s why I’ve kept saying how ridiculous it was that big estates like Tatton Park were closed.  With so few places open, it was inevitable that we’d all be crowding into public parks.

Tatton Park, although National Trust members don’t have to pay to go into the house (which isn’t open ATM) or gardens, isn’t run by the NT, and, with all due respect to the NT, its management have shown a lot more sense, by getting the tearoom open.  The nice Gardener’s Cottage is shut, but The Stables tearoom is open for takeaways.  There’s a big outdoor seating area in the courtyard anyway, and more space has been made so that more tables and chairs can go out there.  They must have made a lot of money today.  Good for them.  It made me think of Mrs Merriwether in Gone With The Wind, pulling herself together and selling her pies, instead of bemoaning the collapse of her world.  A lot of local cafes and restaurants are doing takeaways now.  Good for all of them.  I very much hope that they all survive this horrible time.

And I really needed those peaceful gardens this week, because there seems to be so much anger and hatred everywhere.   What happened to all that talk, in April, about community spirit, when Captain Tom Moore was inspiring us all?  This week’s been awful.  Say you’re upset because someone vandalised a statue of the man who saved Britain from the Nazis, and someone accuses you of being a racist.  Point out that most policemen would are neither racist nor violent, and someone accuses you of “white privilege”. How did the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests become twisted like this?  The Guardian newspaper prints a cartoon depicting Priti Patel as a bull with a ring through her nose.  Whilst you don’t expect decency from what the Guardian‘s become, overt racism, and in a way that’s also religiously offensive, from a well-known newspaper is very shocking, particularly so at a time when so many people have been speaking out about the damage done by racism.   A woman who’s been a victim of sexual violence says that she thinks there’s a need for single sex spaces, and she’s threatened with rape.  What is going on here?   These are very difficult times.  We need to be working together, not hurling vile abuse at each other.

And as for the fact that, after 12 weeks of working from home, we still haven’t had so much as one e-mail asking if we’re OK …

But we have support bubbles.  And we have scones.  And we have gardens.  And we have each other.  And, this weekend, we also have sunshine!

 

(I know this is in twice – Facebook had a strop and wouldn’t share the first one, so I had to repost it!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown Week 1 – March 23rd to 29th 2020 inclusive

Lockdown

Monday, March 23rd

We’re in lockdown.  Boris announced it at half 8 this evening.  No-one’s to go out except to buy food, medicine or other essentials, for medical appointments, to go to work if they can’t work from home, or to exercise once a day.  And all non-essential shops are to close.

I can’t quite take it in.  We knew it was coming, and I don’t think there’s any choice, but I thought we’d get a couple of days’ notice, as happened with schools closing.

One and half million people are going to be “shielded” – i.e. told that they can’t go out at all for 12 weeks.  That’s going to include my cousin’s wife, who’s undergoing cancer treatment, and my other cousin, who’s got lupus, as well as several friends.  Some people have heard already.

They’ve said no gatherings of more than two people in public, but how can that work if two parents are out with a kid, or a parent’s out with more than one kid?  Or does it mean no more than two people who don’t live together?  But you’re not supposed to be out with anyone you don’t live with anyway:  we’re not supposed to meet up with anyone even if we do go out … although I don’t think people are entirely going to stick to that.  As long as you stay 6 feet apart, “accidentally” meeting up with someone in the park or in Tesco car park, or just happening to drive past someone’s house, is only the same as passing random people in the street.   So I should be able to see Mum and Dad occasionally, from a distance; but heaven only knows when we’re going to see the rest of the family, and I certainly won’t be going into anyone else’s home, or having any visitors here.

I’m going to have to go into the office tomorrow, to collect the laptop and some files and stationery.  Loads of people are going to have to do the same – and to empty bins and fridges, apart from anything else!   Everyone’s a bit confused.  All non-essential shops are to close.  What classes as essential?  Are post offices staying open, for a start?  I know this is a stupid thing to worry about, but I’ve got a parcel that needs returning to Amazon, and has to be scanned, and my obsessive brain’s worrying about it.

Bizarrely, I got an e-mail with a load of information about my October holiday to Japan today.  I’m hoping things might be OK by October, even if I’m not holding out much hope for my July holiday to Iceland, but who knows?  Emirates (I’m due to go to Japan with Emirates and Iceland with Easyjet) have suspended flights, for a start.  A lot of people are stranded abroad.  Not sure why so many people are abroad at the moment, but they are.

I posted on Facebook to say something along the lines of please let’s make sure that we all stay in touch, and lots of people “liked” and commented on it.  At least we’ve got Facebook, and WhatsApp, so it’s not like being cut off from the world entirely.  I’m scared of downloading Zoom and House Party and some of the other stuff in case I break something, though.

Whew.  This is a lot to take in, especially when it’s well into the evening.  Our world’s been turned upside down.

 

Tuesday, March 24th

Well, that was an exceptionally bad start, as Bridget Jones would say, to home working!

I retrieved the laptop etc from the office this morning.  The post office near the office was open – the lady in there said she wasn’t sure what was going on, but it does now seem that post offices will be staying open – so I sent the Amazon parcel back!   I’ll have to go into the office from time to time, to drop files off and collect others, and also to print stuff out because there’s no way I can print great long ledgers on my home printer …  but you are allowed to go to work if you can’t work from home, and I’m only talking about a few minutes at a time.  At least the office is near home, and, although I don’t usually drive there, I can park outside.  It’s going to be very difficult for people who work in town.  And public transport’s being scaled right back.

Anyway, I managed to connect it to the wi-fi, but then I tried to connect it to the office network, and the remote link thing just wouldn’t work at all.   It took me ten billion attempts to get through to IT support, and then they said that they couldn’t do anything because their remote link thing was down due to the surge in demand.  I had some stuff I could do without access to the network, but I hope they can sort it tomorrow.  So much for the wonders of remote working technology!!

As far as everything else went, I just had no idea to expect today.  Who’d be working and who wouldn’t?  The papers were delivered, although by one of the adult staff, not one of the paper kids.  The postman came – so I’ve got my Snapfish order, and my soap magazine! – but the binmen usually come at about 8 o’clock and, by early afternoon, there’d still been no sign of them.  However, they did turn up eventually.  Only the black (general waste) bins were emptied, though.  The brown (food and garden waste) ones weren’t.  Apparently they will be at some point, though – but other councils are suspending certain collections “for the duration”.  I keep using that phrase.  It sounds like something from the war.   My dental appointment for next week’s been cancelled, though: they’re only opening for emergencies.

I’m going to try to stick to my weekly routine as far as possible.  Washing on Wednesday and Friday.  Ironing Wed/Thurs and Fri/Sat.  Upstairs cleaning on Thursday morning.  Downstairs cleaning on Thursday evening and Friday morning.  I’m like Ma Ingalls 🙂 – everything on a particular day!   I usually go to Tesco and M&S on a Friday evening, and nip into the Sainsburys Local near work for top-up shopping, so that might change, but I’ll have to see how it goes.

One big change – and this is a welcome one! – will be going to the park for a long walk every day.  We’re supposed to sit by the computers (if they work) during normal office hours, but I need to get out, and we’re allowed out for exercise once a day and I’m not going at 1/4 past 5 in the evening.  I went today.  And I saw my uncle, which was great!   I suspect that I’m going to be seeing a lot of people I know.  It’s nice to have a proper “in person” chat, even if it is at a 6 ft distance, and it’s also nice to see that people are OK.

The Olympics have been postponed.  New date to be confirmed.  The year’s just falling apart.  No news on Wimbledon yet.

On a happier note, the BBC have made all 13 episodes of the new adaptation of Malory Towers available on iPlayer at once!  I’ve watched some already.  It’s really good.

 

Wednesday, March 25th

My cousin’s husband’s got the virus.  It sounds like it, anyway.  Thankfully he’s not too bad, but it’s obviously not good.

And Prince Charles has got it, as well!   Fairly mildly, thankfully.  Even future kings aren’t immune from the horrible thing.

Things are becoming a bit clearer now, and new things are being announced.  For example, MOT periods are being extended by 6 months.  Mum’s car’s due for an MOT soon, so at least that’s one problem fewer.

I went to Tesco this morning, for a “top-up shop”. You now have to clean your trolley handle with sanitiser, and stand behind a marked line at the checkout.

Then, hooray, IT support sorted the remote link out!  It’d been set up with the wrong password or something.  And, thankfully, it hasn’t done anything terrible to the wi-fi … although I dread to think how much electricity it’s all using.   So I’ve done some work.  I had Sky Sports News on – on the TV, not on the office computer!   They’re interviewing sports players, and it’s all a lot more cheerful than Sky News.  It’s now a “thing” to do keepy-uppy with a toilet roll – the Toilet Roll Challenge – and a lot of professional footballers have tried it!  So have my nephews.

Loving the Malory Towers adaptation!

Also loving being able to go for a long walk in the park every day.  I’ll go mad if it’s closed because of a few idiots breaking the rules: the police had to go in today, to break up a few large groups.  The weather’s absolutely glorious: it’s hard to believe that it’s only March.  I kind of like working from home as well, now that the link’s working.  No-one coughing, sneezing or bellowing down the phone on hand-free, and no queues for the kettle!  So there are some positives.  OK, not having to queue for the office kettle doesn’t exactly make up for not being able to see your family and friends, having no sport, not being able to go for days out and having to accept that your holidays will probably be cancelled, but I’m trying to be positive!

 

Thursday, March 26th

We lost over 100 people with coronavirus today.

Spain lost over 700 people with coronavirus yesterday.

The football season’s being abandoned at all levels below the National League North and South.

On a happier note, at 8pm today, everyone went out to clap for NHS staff and care workers.  I wasn’t sure whether or not people’d bother, but they did – there were loads of people at/outside their doors.  Amusingly, an Asda delivery van went round the street just as everyone was applauding, so it looked as if we were all applauding the driver – but, hey, delivery drivers deserve applauding as well!

And I met up – only briefly, and a 6ft distance!! – with Mum and Dad in the park today.  It wasn’t for long, but at least we were able to see each other in the flesh.  They seem fine, thankfully.  And the family Whatsapp groups are beeping all the time, so at least we’re all in touch.  People in general are being great – I’ve had people tagging me in Facebook posts about things they think might interest/amuse me.

One fly in the ointment is next door’s horrible dog.  They leave it out all the time, and it barks its very loud head off every time anyone goes past. That’s quite often at the moment.  Some people are having stuff delivered.  I had a parcel from DPD, who, unlike Amazon, won’t just leave it without a signature.  They can’t ask you to sign their little gadget things at the moment, so the guy took a photo of me holding the parcel!  Also, a lot of people are going past.  Lockdown has turned us into a nation of fitness fanatics!  People are out walking, jogging and cycling!  That’s great, but the bloody dog isn’t.  And, if I or the people on the other side are in our gardens, it lurks menacingly by the fence and barks its head off.  I’ve mentioned it before, but they don’t seem to care, but it’s different now we’re at home all the time.  I don’t want any unpleasantness, but I can’t be expected to put up with that all the time.  I might have to say something.

 

Friday, March 27th

I don’t believe this.  Boris has got the virus now.  So’s Matt Hancock!    And so has one of my second cousins.

Hopefully they’ll only have it mildly, but I’ve been really shocked and disgusted by a small number of vile people saying they hope Boris is really ill with it.  What sort of person wishes illness on another person?

On a more positive note, I went a different route in the park today, and I found this huge bank of daffodils!  I knew about the bank of daffodils by Heaton Hall, but I had no idea about this one, near the tramway (the historic tramway, not the Metrolink) station.  I always go to Chirk Castle, Biddulph Grange and the Lakes in daffodil season, and I don’t spend that much time walking around locally.  It’s absolutely gorgeous.  It’s so lovely in the park … especially as people can’t hang around in one place, so there aren’t barking dogs and screaming kids everywhere!   It’s actually lovely everywhere: I do not miss the traffic noise.  Traffic stresses me out: it makes me feel trapped.  So does being in the office.  I do not miss either of them.

You can hear the birds tweeting.  Birds don’t have to observe social distancing!  And there suddenly seem to be a lot of butterflies around.  It really is gorgeous.  I don’t understand why so many people seem glued to their phones all the time they’re out.  You’re only allowed out to exercise once a day – can’t checking your phone wait till later?!

On a less positive note, you now have to queue to go into Tesco, because they’re only letting so many people in at once.  Well, it’s good that they’re being careful, just a bit of a pain.  Still, it’s not as stressful when you aren’t trapped by working hours and looking frantically at your watch every two seconds if you go in the morning, or tired and fed up by the time you get there in the evening.

I went this morning.  They had most stuff, but no milk, for some reason.   None at all. What’s that about?!  When I came out, I couldn’t go into M&S immediately because they’re now only letting NHS staff and carers in between 8 and 9 (Tesco, M&S and other supermarkets are now reserving certain times for NHS staff, and certain other times for elderly/vulnerable people) so I tried FarmFoods and a smaller shop, and they did have milk but no skimmed milk.  Thankfully, M&S had skimmed milk!  And at least the toilet roll shortage is over!

 

 

Saturday, March 28th

259 deaths today.  259.  I keep telling myself that we won’t go the same way as Italy and Spain, but … we keep hearing about “flattening the curve” and “trajectories”, but at the moment it’s just going up and up.

I’ve lost some weight, anyway!  The walks are doing me good.  And I don’t seem to comfort eat or binge eat as much when I’m away from the office environment.   I always have a jam and cream scone at the weekend, at whichever National Trust house or other place I’m at, so I had one in the garden today, by the daffodils!   20 people “liked” the picture on Facebook 🙂 .

Watched the last episode of Malory Towers.  I’ve got loads of other stuff to watch, though, and loads of books to read.  So there was plenty to do today, as well as going to the park.  And I even cleaned the wheelie bins!!

I also put a note through next door’s letterbox about the bloody dog.  Enough is enough.  I’m pleased to say that they’ve been keeping it quiet ever since.

 

Sunday, March 29th

Fed up of annoying people whingeing about the government, mostly just trying to score political points.  This is on social media: Opposition politicians are being pretty supportive, so far.  Trying to ignore the whingeing, but it really is annoying, and some of it’s really quite spiteful.

My cousin’s husband’s doing much better now.

Put a load of photos in albums today, and had another nice walk in the park.  I saw two mounted police looking for miscreants.   Fair enough, but I wish they wouldn’t leave a trail of horse poo all over the place!

And so endeth our first week in lockdown.  How many more will there be?